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Posts Tagged ‘ballet’

Bergasse Fulfills Desire to Choreograph MGM-Styled Dream Ballet

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Megan Fairchild in On The Town; photo by Joan Marcus

Megan Fairchild in On The Town; photo by Joan Marcus

Choreographer Joshua Bergasse, an Emmy Award winner for his work on Smash, makes his Broadway debut this season with the Broadway classic On the Town, a feat of storytelling in song and dance that is rarely seen on the modern Broadway stage.

“I dreamt of doing a dream ballet from an MGM musical,” Bergasse says in Playbill. “I had seen the movie On the Town, but never seen a stage production. I didn’t realize the amount of dance that was actually in the show that was not in the movie.”

In his choreography, Bergasse had to ensure that audiences were tracking the story the choreography was telling, especially in numbers like “The Times Square Ballet.”

“Everybody is doing something different throughout the whole six-minute ballet and they just come together every once in a while,” he says. “You craft the perfect moment so that the audience can find it. It’s difficult, because you don’t want the audience to be confused or distracted, you want them to have eye candy at times, but to also be able to follow the story.”

Storytelling through dance is something Bergasse hopes will find a regular place in Broadway’s offerings. He said that while many musicals today may include choreography, they aren’t necessarily created to feature dance at the core of the plot. Composers of today’s Broadway musicals “don’t really write with dance in mind,” and he plans to create a wish list of contemporary composers with whom he’d like to collaborate on new musicals.

“Hopefully composers will come see On the Town and remember that they can do that. They’re allowed to write ballets and put dance in there.”

To read the full story, visit http://www.playbill.com/news/article/on-the-town-choreographer-joshua-bergasse-on-bringing-the-dream-ballet-back-to-broadway-333812.

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Pregnant Pennsylvania Ballet Veteran Now Dancing for Two

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Rachel Maher; photo by Alexander Iziliaev

Rachel Maher; photo by Alexander Iziliaev

For Rachel Maher, an 11-year Pennsylvania Ballet veteran, the choreography, costume changes, and intense action of the season-opening program “Press Play” were a little taxing at times. Maher is expecting her first child at the end of March.

“I knew it was feasible,” she says in the Delaware County Daily Times. “The consensus is that if you’re already active, you can remain active. But you always listen to your body and what it tells you.”

Maher is certainly going to stay active. She already has a role in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. She also is set for another Balanchine ballet, Prodigal Son, in February, a walk-on role she’ll take on in her eighth month—and one made possible by a full, flowing costume.

In “Press Play,” Maher danced in two of the program’s four pieces: Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, a stamina-challenging role of jumps and difficulty foot work, and Ratmansky’s Jeu de Cartes, with split-second costume changes between each of three movements.

“It’s definitely a challenge because your body is changing,” Maher said. “It was fun to dance while having this personal secret. And it was interesting to realize that I’m not dancing alone anymore.”

To read the full story, visit http://www.delcotimes.com/arts-and-entertainment/20141023/pennsylvania-ballet-program-keeps-pregnant-drexel-hill-dancer-on-her-toes.

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Oregon Ballet Theatre Facility Sold; Studio and School to Move

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Oregon Ballet Theatre; photos by Emily Parker

Oregon Ballet Theatre; photos by Emily Parker

A site that for years has housed Oregon Ballet Theatre’s dance studio and school is set to become part of the latest building craze in Portland: apartments.

Portland Business Journal reported that Mill Creek Residential Trust, a national development firm with several projects underway in Portland, signed a sale agreement for the studio building, which is located at Southeast Sixth and Morrison. The company, which focuses primarily on multi-family housing, will build 200 market-rate apartments on the site.

In a statement, OBT said the sale will help relieve some of its long-term debt. The company will be looking for a new space for its studio and school by fall of 2015.

Sam Rodriguez, Mill Creek’s managing director, said the firm is currently developing drawings for the development. He had few details to share, but said there will not likely be any retail component.

To see the original story, visit http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/real-estate-daily/2014/10/developer-will-build-200-apartments-at-former.html.

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Ballet Dancer Arrested for Exercising in Public Loses Suit against City

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A jury has ruled against a ballet dancer with a bad hip who sued Oklahoma City over his arrest in a park where he was exercising in high heels with his cane, according to The Oklahoman.

The woman who saw Allen Galbreath and called police testified she was concerned for the safety of her grandchildren. Galbreath’s attorney, Spencer Bryan, said. The jury of five women and three men heard the case in federal court over two days last week, returning with a verdict Friday afternoon.

Galbreath was seeking compensation for what he saw as unfair treatment; the amount would have been up to the jury. Galbreath was arrested in 2010 in Goodholm Park after a woman called police to say she was concerned about a “man in high heels with a big stick and a purse.”

Bryan said Galbreath, who danced professionally for about 10 years, demonstrated his exercise routine for the jury. Galbreath learned gymnastics as a child at Goodholm Park and worked out there to try to regain some of his lost mobility, Bryan said.

The arresting officer testified he never perceived Galbreath as a threat, Bryan said.

Galbreath testified he was released within 24 hours but had to walk home, Bryan said. He said the arrest made Galbreath feel like his identity was being attacked and that Galbreath told jurors, “I was arrested for being me.”

To see the full story, visit http://newsok.com/jury-rules-against-oklahoma-city-ballet-dancer-in-arrest-lawsuit/article/5358420.

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Civil War Cannot Stop Ukrainian Company from Performing The Nutcracker

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Donetsk Ballet of Ukraine;  photo courtesy International Ballet Exchange/Facebook

Donetsk Ballet of Ukraine;
photo courtesy International Ballet Exchange/Facebook

The Donetsk Ballet of Ukraine has had many troubles over the past 20 years, including a three-year theater renovation that forced them into a 1991 U.S. tour that fell apart as the USSR dissolved.

This year, despite the civil war that has shut down their theater and forced many dancers to relocate to Odessa, Kharkov, and other nearby cities that are removed from the conflict, the company will return to Philadelphia for its annual Nutcracker tour.

The performances, December 20 and 21 at Plymouth/Whitemarsh High School, and December 18 at George Washington High School (in a special performance for the Philadelphia school district), will feature 50 local children from the International Ballet Exchange and 18 professional company dancers.

Crisis caused by political upheaval is not new to the company. When the 1991 tour fell apart, the 25 dancers managed to stay afloat with the help of local ballet enthusiasts. Many defected, finding jobs with companies such as Pennsylvania Ballet, Indianapolis Ballet, Houston Ballet, and the now defunct Russian Ballet Theater of Delaware.

Principal dancer on that tour, USA International Ballet Competition gold medalist Vadim Pisarev, and his wife, Inna Dorofeyeva, left the United States to perform as principal dancers for the Dusseldorf Ballet in Germany, and eventually returned to Ukraine, where they resurrected the company. Since that time, the company has traveled to Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Israel, Kuwait, China, Japan, Korea, and France.

To purchase tickets for the Philadelphia performances, visit http://ibexchange.ticketleap.com.

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Hallberg and Osipova to Dance Together in ABT’s Spring Season

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Hallberg and Osipova in Romeo and Juliet; photo by Matthew Murphy/New York Times

Hallberg and Osipova in Romeo and Juliet; photo by Matthew Murphy/New York Times

One of the great ballet pairings of recent years—David Hallberg and Natalia Osipova—will be reunited in New York City this spring during American Ballet Theatre’s season at the Metropolitan Opera House, reports the New York Times ArtsBeat.

Mr. Hallberg, a principal dancer at ABT and the Bolshoi, and Ms. Osipova, now a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet in London, have caused sensations dancing together in earlier seasons. They are scheduled to appear together in performances of La Bayadère, Romeo and Juliet, and Alexei Ratmansky’s new production of The Sleeping Beauty.

The company announced that it has lined up a number of prominent guests for the season, which celebrates its 75th anniversary, including Evgenia Obraztsova, a principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet; Olga Smirnova, a leading soloist with the Bolshoi; and Maria Kochetkova, a principal with San Francisco Ballet.

Misty Copeland, an ABT soloist with a rising public profile, is scheduled to dance the dual role of Odette and Odile in Swan Lake for the first time in New York and to dance her first Romeo and Juliet.

And three of the company’s principal dancers—Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent, and Xiomara Reyes—will be giving their final performances before retiring.

To see the original story, visit http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/16/hallberg-and-osipova-to-dance-together-in-american-ballet-theaters-spring-season/?ref=dance.

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Grand Rapid’s Hometown Hero, Chris Van Allsburg, Lends Illustrative Talents to New Nutcracker

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Grand Rapids Ballet’s new Nutcracker features the designs of illustrator and Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg;  image courtesy MLive

Grand Rapids Ballet’s new Nutcracker features the designs of illustrator and Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg;
image courtesy MLive

Tickets for Grand Rapids Ballet’s new production of The Nutcracker, designed by Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg, author of The Polar Express, and Tony Award-winning designer Eugene Lee, are now on sale.

MLive said the show is choreographed by Val Caniparoli, winner of an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for choreography. “I’m overjoyed to work with the creative team of Chris, Eugene, and Val on this century-old story that is so cherished by families around the world,” said Patricia Barker, artistic director of Grand Rapids Ballet.

The inspiration to have Van Allsburg design the ballet for Grand Rapids came from Maurice Sendak’s production of The Nutcracker for Pacific Northwest Ballet, filmed in 1986 as Nutcracker: The Motion Picture starring Barker as the Dream Clara.

Van Allsburg is best known for his book, The Polar Express, and he frequently includes references to childhood memories of growing up in Grand Rapids, such as the book’s nod to Herpolsheimer’s department store.

Lee, an Emmy Award–winning production designer for Saturday Night Live, is also a Tony Award-winning set designer for Broadway shows Sweeney Todd and Wicked. Caniparoli choreographs for San Francisco Ballet as well as for Joffrey Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Tickets are $20 to $54 for shows opening December 12 in DeVos Performance Hall with eight performances over two weekends through December 21. For tickets, call Grand Rapids Ballet at 616.454.4771 or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com.

To see the original story, visit http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/grand-rapids
/index.ssf/2014/10/on_sale_today_tickets_for_gran.html.

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Misty Copeland Helps Complexions Celebrate Its 20th Anniversary

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Complexions_Contemporary_BalletComplexions Contemporary Ballet will celebrate its 20th anniversary season with a run at The Joyce Theater from November 18 to 30.

The program, comprising three premieres and repertory favorites will feature performances by guest artists including co-artistic director Desmond Richardson and American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland in co-artistic director Dwight Rhoden’s signature duet, Ave Maria, with Complexions’ artist-in residence, Clifford Williams.

Highlights include Head Space, a 30-minute ballet choreographed by Rhoden to the music of New Orleans jazz musician and Grammy-award winner Terence Blanchard, who began collaborating with Complexions on a dance-and-music-on-camera project in 2013.

The 2014 season will also include the New York City premiere of a new work inspired by love and marriage equality, Igual, choreographed by American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Marcelo Gomes and set to an original score by composer Ian Ng.

For tickets, visit: http://Joyce.org. For more information, visit http://www.complexionsdance.org.

 

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Founder and Champion of The Florida Ballet, Laurie Picinich-Byrd, Dies

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Laurie Picinich-Byrd; photo courtesy Facebook

Laurie Picinich-Byrd; photo courtesy Facebook

Through financial woes, the death of her husband, and leadership turnovers, Laurie Picinich-Byrd kept The Florida Ballet going as a Jacksonville arts institution for 35 years. The Florida Times-Union reported that Picinich-Byrd died last Wednesday of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was 67.

She staged The Nutcracker annually at the Florida Theatre. Many of her students went on to dance professionally. One (Davis Robertson) became artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group. In 2011, she started a conservatory where students could combine academics and dance at the studio through online classes.

“She was one of the architects of the arts community that we have today,” said Robert Arleigh White, former executive director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. “If it is true that we stand on the shoulders of giants, Laurie was one of those giants.”

Byrd was diagnosed in January 2013 but adopted the attitude that she was going to be the first to beat the incurable disease, said her son, Christopher Byrd. She vowed to stay positive, changed her diet, and even tried alternative medicines, he said.

“She was amazing,” said Linda Reifsnyder Jenkins, the ballet’s artistic director. “Every time you saw her, she had a smile on her face. She was an inspiration to everyone and continued to come in, even though in a wheelchair. It was her passion. She loved it so. It wasn’t work.”

Byrd was born in Weehawken, New Jersey, in 1947. Her mother, Mae Picinich, who had trained at The Royal Ballet in London, was her first teacher. Byrd also trained with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet’s summer program, and the Joffrey Ballet, and danced professionally for several years, before changing her focus to teaching and choreography.

To read more, visit http://members.jacksonville.com/entertainment/2014-10-09/story/florida-ballet-founder-laurie-picinich-byrd-1947-2014.

 

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BBC’s New Young Dancer Competition: Promise, or Pressure?

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Competitors at the Prix de Lausanne; photo by Dominic Favre/EPA

Competitors at the Prix de Lausanne;
photo by Dominic Favre/EPA

“Does the dance world need another competition?” writes Judith Mackrell in the Guardian.

“From the lofty heights of ballet prizes such as the Prix de Lausanne, to the busy international circuit of hip-hop competitions, to the scrum of celebrity judging, raw talent, and audience manipulation that make up TV shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, young performers around the world are being pitted against each other in every conceivable way.

“But a new entry has entered the field, and it’s a contender. The BBC Young Dancer competition comes with the imprimatur of some of the dance world’s splashiest names. With Carlos Acosta as ambassador (a role as yet undefined beyond its publicity value), the panel judging the competition’s final will include Tamara Rojo, Wayne McGregor, [and] Matthew Bourne . . .”

Mackrell explained that competitors, ages 16 to 20, will compete in separate categories: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, and South Asian. While the ballet entrants will present pas de deux and the contemporary dancers solos taken from known repertory, the hip-hop dancers will battle, and the South Asian dancers can present solos of their own choreography.

“But as carefully as this competition has been worked out, as admirable as its panel of judges may be, there are flaws in the whole concept that no amount of sensitivity and good sense can overcome. Competitions on this kind of public scale put intense pressure on very young and potentially vulnerable performers. They almost invariably place hardcore technique over expressive or stylistic nuance. Simply by virtue of the training and examination system through which they’ve grown up, an 18-year-old ballet student is far more likely to have acquired a professional gloss on his or her performance than [his or her] peers in other dance forms.

“But still I’m very curious to see what this competition delivers, especially in TV terms. The grand final, to be performed at Sadler’s Wells and televised on BBC2 in May, is not the only focus, as the BBC is also promising to run a series of lead-up programs, featuring behind-the-scenes documentaries and detailed analysis of the entrants and their different techniques.”

To read the full story, visit http://www.theguardian.com/stage/dance-blog/2014/oct/03/bbc-young-dancer-competition-carlos-acosta-tamara-rojo.

 

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Following Tradition, Mother Ginger Wig Passed Along to Next City Official

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Pelham city councilman Ron Scott (left) passes a Mother Ginger wig to colleague Maurice Mercer; photo by Martin J. Reed/AL.com

Pelham city councilman Ron Scott (left) passes a Mother Ginger wig to colleague Maurice Mercer;
photo by Martin J. Reed/AL.com

Prior to continuing the tradition of transferring Mother Ginger’s towering white wig to a Pelham, Alabama, government official who will act in the Alabama Youth Ballet Company’s production of The Nutcracker, city councilman Ron Scott provided some sound advice.

“Whoever becomes Mother Ginger needs to practice this,” Scott said in AL.com, flipping out his accordion fan and waving it rapidly in his hand during a council meeting.

With Grebel Dance’s Deborah Grebel following along with a half-dozen child performers, Scott took the decorative box that contained the wig and walked around the council chambers before settling on councilman Maurice Mercer.

Mercer will be the 10th Pelham official to serve in the role. Prior to Scott, other Pelham government officials to play Mother Ginger have included former mayor Bobby Hayes as the first Mother Ginger in 2005, followed by former fire chief Gary Waters the next year, former fire chief Daniel Endress in 2007, former mayor Don Murphy in 2008, fire marshal DeWitt Marcrum in 2009, parks and recreation director Billy Crandall in 2010, fire chief Danny Ray in 2011, and police chief Tommy Thomas in 2012.

Deborah Grebel announced that this year’s performance will mark the 10th anniversary of the production involving Grebel Dance. For more information on the Mother Ginger Club, visit http://grebeldance.com/MotherGingerClub.html. To see the original story, visit http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/
2014/10/alabama_youth_ballets_mother_g.html
.

 

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Ballet Fans Enthralled by World Ballet Day’s Multi-Company Live Stream

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National Ballet of Canada during World Ballet Day; photo by Catherine Chang

National Ballet of Canada during World Ballet Day;
photo by Catherine Chang

“Binge-watching television is kid’s stuff compared to gorging at the online smorgasbord known as World Ballet Day. For once, saying ‘I could watch ballet all day’ was literally true. And I have the eye-drops to prove it,” wrote Pia Catton in the Wall Street Journal.

Catton described her experience trying to watch last week’s first World Ballet Day, a continuous live-stream from five ballet companies in different international time zones that gave ballet junkies access to professional dancers in class, rehearsals, and interviews.

“I was a little late to the party, tuning in around midnight, to catch the Australian Ballet rehearsing choreographer Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake. I tried to stay up to catch even a little bit of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, but I blew it.

“When I woke up, the action had moved to London’s Royal Ballet, by which time the tweets with the hashtag #WorldBalletDay were exploding. The level of interaction between dance fans on social media was already like what you see during sports games or award shows.

“But I wasn’t even able to tweet during the Royal Ballet’s rehearsal of Don Quixote because I was glued to Carlos Acosta . . . teaching a younger dancer a male solo part that includes mime, and . . . using contemporary slang to interpret, as in ‘It wasn’t me!’ Or ‘Walk snazzy here!’

“I made it to the office in time to catch the National Ballet of Canada during the most complicated part of their company class, followed by a rehearsal of Manon. It was coached by Sir Anthony Dowell, who was a star in that same ballet when he danced it for the Royal.

“Finally, I really did have to work by the time everything moved to San Francisco Ballet, but I was still listening in when Yuri Possokhov growled to dancers during rehearsals: ‘Don’t disappoint me!’ ”

To see the original story, visit http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/10/01/i-could-watch-ballet-all-day-and-almost-did/.

 

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Paris Cityscape Provides Backdrop for Photos of Dancers atop Palais Garnier

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Dancers atop the Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera Ballet; photo by JR

Dancers atop the Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera Ballet; photo by JR

JR, the semi-anonymous photographer who recently completed an artistic installation of large-scale photos of New York City Ballet dancers, has done it again: by scaling the rooftops of Paris’ Palais Garnier opera house with 40 ballet dancers, the artist and creator of the viral Inside Out Project has come up with yet another set of stunning images.

The Creators Project said the dancers, adorned in polka-dotted leotards, posed where the city meets the sky for a photo shoot for French magazine Madame Figaro.

Back in 2011, JR’s desire to change the world through art won him the TED Prize. “Art is not supposed to change the world, to change practical things, but to change perceptions. Art can change the way we see the world. Art can create an analogy,” he said in his TED Talk. Since then, he’s been hard at work photographing massive murals and directing his first ballet.

See if you can spot the leotard-based optical illusion in the stunning shots of the dancers at http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/artist-jr-photographed-a-troupe-of-ballet-dancers-180-feet-above-paris.

For more information, visit his web site at http://www.jr-art.net/.

 

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Royal Winnipeg Ballet Addresses Canada’s Ugly Past in Ballet about Residential Schools

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Going Home Star—Truth and Reconciliation; photo courtesy Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Going Home Star—Truth and Reconciliation;
photo courtesy Royal Winnipeg Ballet

One of the most European forms of dance is tackling Canada’s fraught colonial history this week as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet premieres Going Home Star—Truth and Reconciliation, a ballet that discusses abuses, such as sexual abuse and violence, suffered by aboriginal children in residential schools.

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were taken from their families and forced to attend government schools over much of the last century to “take the Indian out of the child,” according to a story in 680News Radio. The last school closed outside Regina in 1996.

Based on a story by novelist Joseph Boyden, the ballet follows the journey of a young, urban First Nations woman who discovers her ancestors and finds meaning in her own life with the help of a homeless residential school survivor. It includes appearances by Polaris prize winner and Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, along with other aboriginal vocalists.

The ballet, sponsored by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, is an attempt to capture the emotions and experiences of residential school survivors by a company that doesn’t have an aboriginal dancer.

“This is not an aboriginal story. This is not only about the experience of those who were students in the school. This is also the story about Canada’s experience,” commission head Murray Sinclair said.

Learning about the issue through dance can reach those who would not necessarily attend a lecture or a speech on the topic, Sinclair said. Dance and music have also been shown scientifically to stimulate a separate part of the brain, so the ballet has the potential to reach people on a different level, he said.

Choreographer Mark Godden said the aim was to reflect the heart-wrenching stories coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. With two kids of his own, he was an “emotional wreck” absorbing the raw, emotional testimony, he said. But he also saw the courage and strength of survivors who relived their abuse by talking about it publicly.

“That’s something I wanted to put into the ballet,” he said. “If everybody picks up the burden of this story, then we lighten the load for everybody. It’s a sense of social responsibility there.”

To see the original story, visit http://www.680news.com/2014/10/01/ballet-meant-to-educate-canadians-about-indian-residential-schools-commissioner/.

 

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San Francisco Ballet School Welcomes Adults to New Pilot Program

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San Francisco Ballet School adult classes; photo courtesy SFB

San Francisco Ballet School adult classes; photo courtesy SFB

San Francisco Ballet School has announced a new pilot program offering adult ballet classes to be taught by former San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Ruben Martin Cintas.

Beginning October 14, the classes will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 to 11am in the SF Ballet School studios, at 455 Franklin Street.

Designed for ages 18 and older, the beginner/intermediate class will be held on Tuesdays, and the intermediate/advanced class will be held on Thursdays. Students will learn classic ballet techniques, while being accompanied by live piano music.

“We’re very excited to open SF Ballet School studios to the public, in support of the company’s mission to share our joy of dance with the widest possible audiences, starting in our own community,” said Patrick Armand, associate director of SF Ballet School. “Ruben has been teaching for several years with us as a guest teacher, and I’m confident that students in our new adult ballet classes will learn a lot from him.”

Each class costs $20, and participants have the option of purchasing a 10-class package for $180. For more information and to register, visit http://school.sfballet.org/adultclasses.

 

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Three Sterling ABT Ballerinas Announce Retirement

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Paloma Herrera; photo by Andrea Mohin/New York Times

Paloma Herrera; photo by Andrea Mohin/New York Times

Three American Ballet Theatre principal dancers—Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent, and Xiomara Reyes—will retire this spring near the end of ABT’s 2015 season at the Metropolitan Opera House, according to the New York Times’ ArtsBeat.

“With them, an era of our history resides,” Kevin McKenzie, artistic director, said in a statement. “Their remarkable careers will be three more reasons to celebrate our 75th anniversary season.”

Reyes will give her farewell performance May 27 dancing the title role in Giselle, Herrera on June 9 as Princess Aurora in the company’s new production of The Sleeping Beauty, and Kent on June 20 as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.

The anniversary season will feature some of the ballets that helped shape ABT’s identity in its early years, including Fokine’s Les Sylphides, Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, and Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo. The company’s new Sleeping Beauty will have its premiere March 3 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California. A gala is being planned for May 18 at the Met. And that month the company will be the subject of a documentary by Ric Burns shown on the American Masters series on public television.

To see the original story, visit http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/three-ballet-theater-principals-to-retire/?partner=rss&emc=rss.

 

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Young Joffrey Pre-Professionals to Perform, Compete, During First Visit to China

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Joffrey Ballet Concert Group; photo courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Joffrey Ballet Concert Group; photo courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Joffrey Ballet Concert Group, the pre-professional performance company of the Joffrey Ballet School, will depart on October 10 on its first tour to the People’s Republic of China.

Fourteen of the troupe’s 35 dancers will represent the U.S. at the Beijing Dance Academy’s 60th Anniversary, performing Kettentanz (1971) by Joffrey co-founder Gerald Arpino at a gala performance, and interacting with dance companies, artistic directors, choreographers, and dance students from around the globe.

Seven dancers from the group have also been selected to compete in the Beijing International Invitational for Dance Schools. Throughout the 15-day tour, a film crew will document the adventures of these young dancers, capturing every aspect of what it takes to be a pre-professional dancer.

“This trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these dancers—a remarkable growing opportunity in the professional realm,” says Davis Robertson, artistic director of the concert group.

The Joffrey Ballet Concert Group was created by Robert Joffrey in 1981 as a performing outlet for Joffrey Ballet School students. Graduates have gone on to dance for major dance companies around the world. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/JoffreyConcertGroup.

 

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Royal Winnipeg Company and School Receive $1M Plus Government Grant

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The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School; photo courtesy Winnipeg Sun

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School;
photo courtesy Winnipeg Sun

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and RWB School will get more than $1.6 million in federal support, reported the Winnipeg Sun.

The school will receive $1.55 million over two years through the Canada Arts Training Fund. An additional $118,110 will be provided to the Winnipeg Foundation to invest on behalf of the ballet for an endowment fund.

“The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is a world-class ballet company and training institution. Its success is a point of pride for Winnipeggers, Manitobans, and all Canadians. Our government proudly stands behind organizations like the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, which do so much to enrich our communities both culturally and economically,” said minister Shelley Glover.

The RWB teaches 1,200 ballet students each year. “On behalf of our hundreds of graduates working professionally on stages across Canada and around the world, we would like to express our deepest thanks and appreciation,” said RWB executive director Jeff Herd.

To see the original story, visit http://www.winnipegsun.com/2014/09/26/feds-give-16-m-to-ballet.

 

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Royal Ballet Revives MacMillian’s Tragic Masterpiece, Manon

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The Royal Ballet in Manon; photo courtesy CCTV News

The Royal Ballet in Manon; photo courtesy CCTV News

Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s tragic ballet Manon headlines the Royal Ballet’s new season at London’s Royal Opera House—40 years after the tragic story of a young girl who chooses luxury over love premiered in 1974 to considerable acclaim.

CCTV News said some of the company’s brightest young stars are set to be featured in the new production, and have been coached by Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell, who played the lead roles in the original production.

The lead character, Manon, is very naive at first. She falls in love, but then becomes seduced by a life of money and riches before realizing the emptiness of that course. She finds true love again, but, unfortunately, it is too late.

Francesca Hayward is the youngest of the dancers who will play the title role during the 19-performance run. “I think it’s just a very real story. I think everyone can relate to it—people who come to the ballet for the first time will see it’s not fairies or anything unbelievable. It’s real people and they are doing real things: sinning and doing naughty things that I think everyone has done a few times,” Hayward said, laughing.

Manon is playing at London’s Royal Opera House from September 26 through November 1. To watch a video report on the production, visit http://english.cntv.cn/2014/09/25/VIDE1411643172450605.shtml.

 

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NYCB Principal Finds Plenty of New Challenges on Broadway

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Megan Fairchild; photo courtesy Facebook

Megan Fairchild; photo courtesy Facebook

Megan Fairchild, a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, has traded in her pointe shoes for T-strap pumps for a Broadway revival of On the Town—and is working hard to get used to dancing in heels.

“It’s a learning curve,” Fairchild, playing Miss Subways, Ivy Smith, told the Associated Press.

The part requires her to do things she never does at the ballet: speak lines and sing a little, which makes her laugh. “It’s scary to hear myself even talk on a microphone, so singing is like ridiculous,” she said.

Choreographer Joshua Bergasse credits Fairchild for being brave to try a different genre and said he didn’t have to do much with her artistry, only add a little bit of smolder, sensuality, and seductiveness to her repertoire.

“It’s wonderful for Broadway to get a dancer of Megan’s caliber because this isn’t necessarily the same audience that goes to the ballet. They don’t know this powerhouse of a dancer and I think they’ll fall in love with a big dance musical. And, hopefully, they’ll then say, ‘Let’s go to the ballet.”

Fairchild, who has taken a leave from NYCB but plans to moonlight in February by dancing in two ballets, said she finds Broadway dancers inspiring.

“There’s not as much job security on Broadway so everyone’s incredibly professional and has their stuff together,” she said. “I have another job to go back to. It’s just interesting seeing the different worlds. And it’s fun to be around people that don’t take it for granted.”

To read the full story, visit http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/ballet-dancer-switches-genres-broadway-debut-25750491.

 

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Homeless Students in Florida Receive Ballet Instruction and New Shoes

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Florida children receive new shoes; photo courtesy Tampa Bay Times

Florida children receive new shoes;
photo courtesy Tampa Bay Times

The Metropolitan Ministries Partnership School in Tampa, Florida, which serves homeless children, has partnered for eight years with the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts’ Patel Conservatory to provide the students—kindergartners through fifth-graders—with 30 minutes of ballet instruction each week.

Since the school year started in late August, the Tampa Bay Times said, the students have been dancing barefoot in a small studio in the Tampa YMCA next door to the school. Last week the Metropolitan Ministries students were fitted with their own pairs of ballet shoes—beige for the girls, black for the boys.

Ashley Hilton, 30, a dance instructor at the conservatory, has been teaching the students for all eight years. “I was thinking back to one of my former students and he’s in seventh grade now, and it’s great to see them grow as individuals and as dancers,” Hilton said.

Daphne Fourqurean, Metropolitan Ministries school principal, said the students can learn a lot through ballet, even if few of them are aspiring dancers. “I think a lot of it is self-discipline because they really need to take instruction,” Fourqurean said. “There’s a direct correlation between students who dance and higher levels of achievement.”

Each year, the lessons culminate in a school production at the Straz Center. To see the original story, visit http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/ballet-students-at-tampa-homeless-school-get-free-shoes/2199387.

 

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2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Preparing for Big Jumps

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2Tips Ballet
By David Arce

Tip 1
To achieve grand allegro jumps such as grand jeté, tour jeté, assemblé devant, fouetté, and cabriole fouetté, students must be able to do a strong, square, and properly placed 90-degree sauté in grand battement devant with arms in high fifth position.

To help students feel the power of this building block for more difficult jumps, I give the following combination. It is also a good “tune-up” exercise. Have students perform this exercise one by one or two by two to make sure they properly feel the sauté. Use the longest diagonal of your studio for this exercise.

Start with the students in the farthest upstage corner of the studio, in croisé tendu devant. They tombé, brush the supporting leg through first into a 90-degree battement, and sauté with the arms in high fifth. After landing the sauté in a 90-degree soutenu, they take three steps (on the same diagonal) and repeat the sauté step three more times.

The fourth time, have them do one of the following: one more simple sauté in effacé with the leg still extended at 90 degrees, or one of the jumps listed in the first paragraph.

 

Tip 2
One key element of jumps is maintaining proper focus throughout the preparation and jump and after the landing. Students most often forget to do this during assemblé; instead, they look down at their legs assembling in fifth in the air. This makes it difficult to achieve the proper body and head positions, gives the illusion of a smaller jump, and creates a heavy landing.

I remind my students that the eyes must lead any step (especially jumps) in ballet; then the head follows, then the torso, and finally the arms and legs. I also tell them to place their focus where they want it to be when they land.

Looking up before and during jumps prepares the body to remain lifted even after the landing. This also allows the dancer to remain in the air a split second longer.

 

 

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Upcoming Ballet in Cinema Season Features Seven Bolshoi Performances

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Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake; photo by Reuters

Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake; photo by Reuters

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema 2014–15 Season will feature seven productions, with four live performances (captured earlier the same day of the cinema broadcast from Moscow) and three pre-recorded programs.

The Sunday matinee performances will be broadcast in more than 450 cinemas and performing arts centers across the U.S. and Canada.

The season will include:
• October 26: The Legend of Love, choreographer Yuri Grigorovich’s seminal work.
• November 23: Pierre Lacotte’s The Pharaoh’s Daughter (recorded)
• December 7: La Bayadère (recorded)
• December 21: The Nutcracker
• January 25: Swan Lake
• March 8: Romeo and Juliet (recorded)
• April 19: Ivan the Terrible

A new web-based video series, created to support the in-cinema events, will feature never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews with many of the company’s artists including Svetlana Zakharova, Maria Alexandrova, Vladislav Lantratov, Semyon Chudin, Alexander Volchkov and Anna Nikulina. The video series introduces the artists as they discuss their work, specific roles and productions, and individual inspirations.

Kicking off the cinema season is a video trailer starring premier David Hallberg and leading soloist Olga Smirnova (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wd0BV9pR_wM).

Tickets are on sale now in the U.S. at participating cinemas and at www.bolshoiballetincinema.com. To view the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema’s YouTube channel, visit, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGYdrSP2EaeoLxHbSVWNZ5A.

 

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New Canadian Program Stymies Alberta Ballet’s Ability to Hire Foreign Artists

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Alberta Ballet; photo by Lorraine Hjalte/Calgary Herald

Alberta Ballet; photo by Lorraine Hjalte/Calgary Herald

The Canadian government’s Temporary Foreign Workers program, which allows citizens of other countries to work in Canada for specified periods of time in certain industries, is tripping up Alberta Ballet.

While company officials agree in general with the idea behind the Temporary Foreign Workers guidelines—that Canadians should get first crack at available jobs—the provisions also clash with the international culture of classical ballet.

“There’s a long-standing history of free movement between dance companies,” Alberta Ballet executive director Martin Bragg told the Calgary Herald. “American dancers come here. Canadian dancers and artists go to the U.S (to dance and choreograph). It’s all quality based.”

When Alberta Ballet tried to apply for a temporary foreign worker visa for the master carpenter of its season-opening production of Don Quixote, who would have come from Houston to teach the Calgary crew how to build the show’s sets, they ran afoul of the paperwork required. The carpenter balked at the amount of personal disclosures (such as bank balances and personal relationships) required, and declined to travel to Canada for the two-to-three day job.

Also, the company enlisted the services of Christina Giannelli, the original Don Quixote lighting designer from Houston, but thanks to paperwork snafus, she still hasn’t been able to come into the country.

Alberta Ballet conducts auditions worldwide, in an effort to identify the best dancers available. About a dozen of the company’s 34 dancers are non-Canadians, from places such as Cuba, Australia, Japan, and the United States.

“It’s not that we don’t want to hire Canadians,” he says. “Of course we want to hire Canadians—but being an arts organization, you really want to hire the best person for the job.”

To see the full story, visit http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/Alberta+Ballet+foreign+worker+rules/10226350/story.html.

 

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Thinking Out Loud | Mixed Messages

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ThinkingOutLoudT2
By Melanie Gibbs

The following Facebook post got the English National Ballet School into hot water last January: “Fabulous to have students and staff back in school after the Xmas break. Time to work off all that Xmas food.”

The post sparked accusations that the school was fostering an unhealthy body image and creating an atmosphere ripe for eating disorders. Kathleen Rea, author of The Healing Dance, said, “Whether it was intentional or not, it is shocking that the ENBS would pressure their students to lose weight in such a public way.” A dancer anonymously lambasted the school, saying that the comment was “unacceptable.”

Weight loss is the quintessential New Year’s resolution. So why did this post strike a nerve?

There is a huge difference between pursuing thinness for the aesthetic of an art and being clinically anorexic.

Dance, especially classical ballet, is a highly specialized art that requires a highly specialized body. Like jockeys, who are required to be small and light, or basketball players, who are usually very tall and agile, dancers are held to a physical standard that is outside the norm. The problem arises when the standard is based solely on aesthetics rather than quantifiable measurements like a horse’s weight limit or the height of a basketball hoop. For dancers, physical features like a long neck, short torso, narrow hips, long limbs, and sloped shoulders don’t make a difference in whether you can do a movement, but they do affect how the movement looks.

And there isn’t much you can do to change your body if you weren’t born with these attributes. The ideal dance body is light, quick, flexible, strong, and, yes, thin. Obviously the degree to which these characteristics matter varies depending on the discipline, and some successful professional dancers don’t conform at all to these stringent standards. However, in general the expectations are remarkably high, especially for ballet dancers.

A 2011 study of teenage ballet dancers, anorexia nervosa (AN) patients, and a control group (high school students who were not involved in competitive sports or being treated for eating or other psychiatric disorders) utilized the term “anorexia athletica,” a subclinical form of anorexia, to describe athletes who “deliberately restrict calories and are fearful of becoming obese.” On the psychopathologic questionnaire, the AN patients reported greater preoccupation with 7 of the 11 categories (“perfectionism, body dissatisfaction, etc.”) than the control group, but the dancers scored higher than the control group in 3 of the 11 eating disorder question categories: “drive for thinness, interoceptive awareness [your sense of your physiological condition] and asceticism [austerity/rejection of worldly pleasures]”. One of the 44 control students and 3 of the 52 dancers met the criteria for anorexia athletica, while 11 of the 52 anorexia patients qualified. Only one dancer met the criteria for AN. The study concluded that “ballet dancers do not have an increased risk of clinical AN, despite the strong pressures to be thin.”

There is a huge difference between pursuing thinness for the aesthetic of an art and being clinically anorexic. In my opinion, loaded words are thrown around in the dance studio much too casually; both “fat” and “anorexic” are overused. When a student sees the skin pushed up by a tight waistband and complains about her “fat,” her friends are quick to scoff, calling her anorexic because she is obviously beautiful and perfect and skinny.

For most of us, these exchanges are melodramic, like exaggerated reports of having to do “a million” relevés in class. But to a student whose self-image is already shaky, they can mean a lot more. What is a dance teacher’s responsibility, exactly? How far-reaching is our influence?

More than what we say, what we hear and see can be our best tool when it comes to fighting body dysmorphia among our students. Observe them. Talk with their parents. Learn the difference between age-appropriate obsessing over appearance and the warning signs of something more serious. The Renfrew Center is an excellent resource for information: renfrewcenter.com/resources/educational-materials.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are diseases of the mind, not the body. The mental health of young girls in today’s world of mixed messages is a fragile thing, and even more so in young dancers. If we’re going to ask them to stare at their reflection every day, we might as well help them like what they see.

 

 

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Ballet Scene | A Sensory-Sensitive Show

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The Sugar Plum Fairy, PBT School student Katie, Klodowski, poses with an audience member at the Benedum Center. Photo by Shelby L. Vogel

The Sugar Plum Fairy, PBT School student Katie, Klodowski, poses with an audience member at the Benedum Center. Photo by Shelby L. Vogel

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s autism-friendly Nutcracker
By Rita Felciano

Megan Naughton, the mother of four children, remembers going to Nutcracker with her grandmother, and loving it. “I so much wanted this experience to be available to my family,” says the Pittsburgh-area resident, who studied ballet through high school and still takes class (usually hip-hop) whenever she can. But until last Christmas, seeing a Nutcracker wasn’t possible for her two boys, ages 7 and 9, because they have autism. Then Naughton heard that Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre had designed a version of the holiday favorite that her boys could enjoy.

Families with children along the autism spectrum rarely go to the theater because their children do not respond in ways that fall within socially accepted norms for audience behavior. “Kids with autism,” says Luciana Randall, executive director of Autism Connection of Pennsylvania, have differences that “are invisible; people automatically assume they are fine.” Since these children don’t present obvious physical signs of such differences, Randall says, “parents often feel that they are judged as bad parents who should control their children.”

During a performance, children with autism might want to participate in the action or explore the theater; others might find it difficult to deal with the noise and the crowds.

Children on the autism spectrum may engage in self-soothing repetitive motion, get agitated while waiting in line, disregard someone’s personal space, or otherwise behave in ways others might find puzzling or disturbing. During a performance, children with autism might want to participate in the action or explore the theater. Some might become emotionally overwrought. Naughton says that her boys, particularly the younger one, would find it difficult to deal with the noise and crowds in a theater.

For these families, activities such as going to the zoo, a restaurant, or a park are fraught with challenges. That means siblings miss out on experiences that other families take for granted. Naughton has two autism-free daughters who take ballet, and her boys have only seen their sisters’ recitals on video.

Yet when Alyssa Herzog Melby, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s director of education and community engagement, approached Randall about presenting an autism-friendly Nutcracker, Randall didn’t immediately embrace the idea. “Most people with autism are boys, so I wasn’t sure,” she says.

Ballet Scene1

PBT dancers like Yoshiaki Nakano were given training to prepare them to perform for audience members with autism. Photo by Rich Sofranko

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is almost five times more common among boys than among girls. “I didn’t think they would have a lot of interest” in a show that traditionally attracts girls, Randall says. She’s happy to have been proved wrong.

On December 27, 2013, Naughton’s dream became true: she took her four children to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s autism-friendly Nutcracker, the first in the U.S. “It was a wonderful experience for everybody, and it was so well prepared. My sons very much enjoyed the dancing,” she says. This was the first live dance performance the boys had attended.

Assisting with the production was Roger I. Ideishi, an occupational therapist and associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at Temple University. He has helped theater companies, museums, and aquariums make their presentations suitable for special-needs audiences.

“A few of the more significant challenges that are addressed through autism-friendly performances,” Ideishi says, “are the sensory experience and the ability to predict or have preconceived ideas of what to expect from the experiences.”

Children who have autism or other significant cognitive differences are as varied as any other group of people. Some are more attuned to receiving visual information, others to sound, still others to touch. Others may find one or more of these stimuli difficult to tolerate. Sensitivities can be vastly different among children with ASD. As an often-quoted statement explains, “If you have seen one child with autism, you have seen one child with autism.”

“Programs such as the one developed at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre offer opportunities for individual strengths to be capitalized upon,” Ideishi says. It may not be for every child, “but for those children who respond positively to seeing movement with music, then dance is a great medium” to open channels of connectivity and communication.

Naughton’s boys, for instance, are verbal, but “they still have a hard time communicating emotions,” she says. Both like to use their bodies. “The little one is a jumper; the older one rocks a lot. Both like to spin. At one point both took ‘tumble and bounce’ classes at Pittsburgh’s DancExplosion Arts Center.” The younger boy, Duncan, was not interested in continuing with dance, but Jayden loved hip-hop. “There was no social pressure. Everybody was there, everybody lined up. They were the same age,” Naughton says. And, she adds with a laugh, ”You didn’t have to talk.”

Ballet Scene2

Laurie Tarter, a teaching artist from Firefly Arts, a nonprofit that supports children with autism and their families, interacts with a young audience member.
Photo by Rich Sofranko

Jayden has continued taking hip-hop and tap classes at DancExplosion, using noise-canceling earphones as needed, and now has added ballet and—his particular love—modern dance. “He talks to me,” Naughton says, “about how he can show with his body what he feels inside.”

Herzog Melby became interested in the idea of an autism-friendly Nutcracker after hearing about productions of The Lion King and Annie that were tailored to people with autism. Nutcracker, she reasoned, would be a logical choice to offer to people with autism because it’s “so familiar and accessible,” she says.

 

Unlike Randall, PBT artistic director Terry Orr needed no convincing. “When Alyssa approached me about the project, she had about 28 reasons why we should do this,” he says. “She didn’t even get through the first one; I immediately said, ‘This sounds wonderful; let’s do it.’ So we did.” The company budgeted $80,000 for the performance to cover ancillary costs, among them staff salaries, consultant fees, subsidized tickets, and sensory-friendly materials for the lobby.

Randall worked with the ballet company for almost a year, training more than 200 people—dancers, staff, board members, volunteers, and parents of ballet students. As part of the planning, a focus group of parents, experts, and young people with autism watched a video of the ballet. After each act, they discussed which aspects of the performance might prove to be problematic.

Relatively few changes were needed to make this Nutcracker autism-friendly (also referred to as “sensory-friendly”): Drosselmeyer’s fire flares were eliminated, as were the cannon shots and the mice’s blinking red eyes. The volume of the taped music was lowered, particularly the loud percussion sounds. The house lights were kept halfway up, says Randall, because it’s reassuring for some children to be able to see their parents or a comfort object like a toy or a snack.

Two locations in the lobby of the Benedum Center, the 2,800-seat theater where PBT typically performs, became places for decompression should anyone need them. One was an activity center where children could have their picture taken with a Sugar Plum Fairy and do art activities. The other was a quiet place with beanbag chairs, plush animals, and noise-cancelling earphones. Herzog Melby also gives credit to TFH USA, a company that makes toys and equipment for people with special needs; it offered the use of a vibrating chair and a bubble machine.

But if the PBT staff expected these places to be heavily used, they were in for a surprise. “I was thrilled to see that [the children] were mesmerized,” Randall says. “They didn’t even want to leave the theater during intermission; the constant motion, the music, and the colors kept them engaged. Afterward, the ballet people told me [the kids] were the best audience they’d had because they clapped twice as much and responded to the emotional parts more than to other sections. [The clapping] wasn’t just for pirouettes and leaps.”

Randall invited a 16-year-old boy with autism to the dress rehearsal so she could get a sense of how the audience might react. “He ended up in the lobby afterward, dancing the swordfight scene,” she says. “He was pointing his feet and leaping around, and the ballet people told us he had memorized the music that went with the dance. Maybe that boy should be dancing.”

The show had been carefully marketed to families that included a person or persons with autism, sensory disorders, or other developmental disabilities. “We wanted to keep the performance focused,” Herzog Melby says. To buy the tickets, which were half-price, “people needed a code or had to answer questions about the makeup of their group,” she says. Some 800 patrons attended.

Ideishi and his graduate students had prepared a pre-visit guide, available for download from PBT’s website after tickets had been purchased. Large color photographs of the outside of the theater, the lobby (including the break areas), the stairs, the seats, and the characters that would appear onstage accompanied simple language describing everything a child might expect to experience.

Ballet Scene3

The Benedum Center’s lobby gave attendees a place to decompress and do art activities. Photo by Shelby L. Vogel

Patrons also were told that children would be free to move around and express themselves during the performance, and that 40 ushers and volunteers would be available to assist them if needed.

Families were invited to a Saturday morning ‘Meet Your Seat’ event to acquaint themselves with the theater. Since only one family took advantage of the opportunity, PBT is considering eliminating this feature for future presentations. To more finely calibrate the needs of this audience, Ideishi designed a before-and-after survey that PBT will use when preparing its next autism-friendly Nutcracker.

Most important, the dancers knew who their audience would be. Ideishi and Randall held a training session for the company during which Ideishi talked about autism, primarily from a scientist’s perspective. Randall explained that although it’s likely that everyone has some sensory sensitivity, the brains of people with autism work differently from those of people who don’t have it. She talked to the dancers about how some people with autism communicate through noises or vigorous movement—which the performers should interpret as interest and excitement and not as a sign of displeasure.

“I did spend some time on the fact that we were creating a non-judgmental atmosphere versus what can happen in school or church or stores, where families have been criticized and asked to leave,” she says. The younger the dancers, the more open they were to this type of performance, because they had encountered children with autism in their academic schools.

“We were told what was going to be different and what we could expect,” says corps de ballet member Gabrielle Thurlow, who danced the Sugar Plum Fairy that afternoon. “Basically, we were told to keep going” and not be distracted by what they might hear or see in the audience. She calls the performance “a unique experience, something I’m glad I could be part of.” There were some noises, she says, “but we give student matinees, and those kids also exclaim. I knew they were allowed to walk around, but I didn’t notice anyone doing that. They seemed very attentive.”

As for the audience feedback, Randall says she received many (often lengthy) letters from parents expressing their gratitude and saying that they would be back for another Nutcracker or other autism-friendly shows.

People approached Orr directly to express their gratitude. “At times,” he says, “I almost had tears in my eyes because they were so happy and genuine in what they were saying. We have to do it again. This was the best Christmas present I have ever had.”

 

 

 

 

 

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NYCB Dancers Lend Inspiration, Advice to Footwear Designer Cole Haan

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Ballet flats; photo courtesy PRNewsFoto/Cole Haan

Ballet flats; photo courtesy PRNewsFoto/Cole Haan

A new collection of ballet flats by footwear/accessories brand and retailer Cole Haan were designed through a multi-year partnership with New York City Ballet dancers Sara Mearns, Megan Fairchild, and Gretchen Smith.

PR Newswire said the Cole Haan Avery Ballet Studio Collection will debut October 1, offering the Avery Ballet Flat in two new styles. The Avery En Pointe Ballet will be offered in Sugar Plum, Black Swan Metallic, and Diamonds Metallic, and feature design nuances inspired by the dancers such as grosgrain crisscross pattern laced in the back that resembles pointe shoe ribbons.

The Avery Printed Tutu Ballet will be offered in Classroom Pink and Black, and feature printed nappa with black grosgrain, tulle, and a suede toecap.

“Sara, Megan, and Gretchen are among the most delightful and dedicated talents we’ve worked with. Their energy and commitment is infectious,” said David Maddocks, Cole Haan chief marketing officer.

“Working with Cole Haan has been a dream, and we knew we would create something amazing together,” Mearns said. “The partnership is a unique fit as it welds two of the most beautiful things in the world together, ballet and fashion.”

To see the original story, visit http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cole-haans-dance-with-new-york-city-ballet-276444971.html.

 

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Moscow Ballet Donates Part of Nutcracker Proceeds to Anti-Bullying Efforts

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Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker; photo courtesy Moscow Ballet

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker;
photo courtesy Moscow Ballet

The Moscow Ballet, focusing on a message of peace during its 2014 tour, will help support the efforts of an anti-bullying group from Paducah, Kentucky, by donating a portion of the proceeds from one performance of its Great Russian Nutcracker, according to WPSD Local 6 news.

The Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation is a local and national advocate for raising public awareness about bullying led by mother/daughter team, Susan and Morgan Guess. When patrons purchase a ticket for the Moscow Ballet’s November 17 performance at the Luther F. Carson Four River Center, Paducah, and use the promo code “HELP,” $5 will be donated to the Guess Foundation.

“Bullying happens because we allow it to happen. It’s as simple as that,” said Susan Guess. “As parents, as citizens, as members of the human race, we must begin to stand up and say, ‘You will not do this . . . there are ramifications.’ ”

Carolina Siscanu, audition director for the Great Russian Nutcracker, commented: “We recognize the efforts towards peace that Susan and her daughter Morgan have made, and we certainly want to help support their continued efforts.”

To see the original story, visit http://www.wpsdlocal6.com/story/26604982/moscow-ballet-unites-with-local-anti-bullying-group .

 

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Wendy Whelan to Dance Debut During Final NYCB Performance

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Wendy Whelan; photo by Paul Kolnik

Wendy Whelan; photo by Paul Kolnik

Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon, two of the world’s most sought-after ballet choreographers, will create a new work for Wendy Whelan’s farewell performance with New York City Ballet on October 18, the company said in the New York Times.

The ballet, which will feature Whelan, Tyler Angle, and Craig Hall, is set to excerpts from Max Richter’s 2012 score Recomposed: Vivaldi–The Four Seasons, with each choreographer creating two movements.

Whelan, who had a hip reconstruction in August last year, said that Wheeldon and Ratmansky had been her most important creative influences during her career, and that she had asked them to make a combined piece for her. She also chose the score. “I had listened to that music every day while doing my exercises after my operation,” she said. “It kept me going through a difficult year.”

Whelan said that she picked the sections of the music for each choreographer. “I chose one movement from each season, because I wanted that idea of change and transition,” she said. “I could clearly hear Chris in the first two and Alexei in the second two. They have always seen me in music, and now I’m seeing them.”

Whelan said it was important for her to end her career at NYCB with something new. “I like the idea of making a debut on my farewell,” she said.

To see the original story, visit http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/ratmansky-and-wheeldon-to-collaborate-on-city-ballet-work/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0.

 

 

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Seattle’s Men in Dance Festival Growing in Prestige and Program Offerings

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Men in Dance Festival; photo by Colleen Dishy

Men in Dance Festival; photo by Colleen Dishy

The ranks of professional dancers are still dominated by females, and both ballet and modern choreographers still face challenges finding a sufficient number of males when casting. But things are changing, according to the Seattle Times, and this year’s biannual Men in Dance Festival is proof.

The festival received more artist submissions than ever before in its 20-year history—double what the festival can present over its two weekends. The variety of dance works will be more varied, with more pieces by big names like Mark Morris, dance pioneer Ted Shawn, Cirque du Soleil’s Darren Bersuk, and former Seattle icon Bill Evans.

According to festival co-producer Gérard Théorêt, as word about the festival has spread—and as dance has become more “acrobatic” and has gained exposure on televised reality shows—it’s been easier to attract submissions, including ones from outside Seattle. Almost half of this year’s choreographers and companies come from elsewhere: New York, Ohio, Oregon, New Jersey, California, and Canada.

And unlike previous years, when the festival had to repeat some works to flesh out its two different programs, of the 17 dances being presented this time around, only one (a solo choreographed by the pioneering choreographer and supporter of men in dance, Ted Shawn) appears twice. That’s a major feat considering that only male dancers are allowed as performers.

The festival, running September 26 to 28 and October 3 to 5 at Broadway Performance Hall in Seattle, includes an opening-night tribute to Kaleidoscope director Anne Green Gilbert, who is retiring this year, and a workshop geared toward teachers, led by Evans.

Tickets are $20 to $35, with some pay-what-you can tickets available on Saturdays, and are available at 800.838.3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com. To see the original story, visit http://seattletimes.com/html/thearts/2024579785_menindancexml.html. For more information, visit http://www.menindance.org/.

 

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Massachusetts Preparatory School Partners with Ballet Austin

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Walnut Hill School for the Arts; photo by Liza Voll

Walnut Hill School for the Arts;
photo by Liza Voll

Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, Massachusetts, and Ballet Austin in Texas announced last week they are partnering to provide students and teachers of dance at both organizations expanded teaching, learning, and performance opportunities.

The organizations will share resources, facilities, and professional expertise, according to Metro West Daily News.

“We are thrilled to partner with Ballet Austin to provide our students and faculty of dance with access to the talent and resources of one of the nation’s premier ballet companies,” Michael Owen, Walnut Hill director of dance, said. “The nature of this collaboration is incredibly unique and opens up a dynamic set of possibilities for our student dancers.”

The two organizations will work to identify Walnut Hill seniors who are ideal candidates to enter Ballet Austin’s Butler Fellowship Program, a year-long, post-high school training initiative. Fellows rehearse and perform with Ballet Austin’s companies. Up to 15 fellowships are awarded annually.

Ballet Austin associate artistic director Michelle Martin will visit Walnut Hill in October to teach a series of master classes, and the organizations are pursuing other potential opportunities to collaborate.

Walnut Hill recently announced an academic partnership program with Boston Conservatory that allows select graduates to earn a BFA in Dance in three years at the conservatory.

To see the original story, visit http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20140918/NEWS/140915990. For more information, visit http://walnuthillarts.org/admission/arts/dance/ballet-austin-partnership/.

 

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Miami City Ballet Works Toward New Identity Under Lopez’ Leadership

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Miami Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez teaches class; photo by Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald staff

Miami Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez teaches class; photo by Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald staff

The Miami City Ballet is transforming under the leadership of artistic director Lourdes Lopez, who took over from founder Edward Villella two years ago, but how the changes will ultimately affect the company’s artistic profile—the way it dances, and its place in the dance world and in Miami’s cultural landscape—remains to be seen.

The Miami Herald said the most obvious changes are in the company leadership and staff. There has been an almost complete turnover—from a new board president and new executive director to new teachers at the company school. The board has become better organized and more functional, with a more clearly defined and helpful relationship with the company.

“I think Lourdes is gaining confidence,” says new executive director Michael Scolamiero, who held the same position at Pennsylvania Ballet for 17 years before moving to Miami in July. “She’s arriving at an identity for the company.”

Sweeping changes at an artistic institution mean far more than new marketing strategies; they lead to differences in aesthetic, in character, in identity. For Miami City Ballet, the changes point toward a repertory and style that are more mixed, more contemporary, and more similar to those of other U.S. ballet troupes; a more corporate organizational culture; and a new emphasis on community relationships.

The casual, mom-and-pop shop atmosphere the troupe had under Villella and his wife, Linda Villella, who founded and headed the company’s school, has been replaced with a more businesslike approach.

At the company’s school, which has become a regular source of the troupe’s dancers, enrollment and tuition are up for both the year-round program and the summer intensive. The focus of the training has shifted away from Villella’s emphasis on energy, urgency, and musicality—qualities that distinguished MCB from other companies. New teachers emphasize more traditional technique and a wider range of styles that will presumably prepare students for a different repertory, but also seem likely to make MCB’s dancers more like those at other troupes.

New board president Sue Kronick says the changes are inevitable, and will ultimately be positive. “There are transitions in any business,” says Kronick. “Some are messy, and some are good. The question is, ‘What is it that breeds success?’ ”

To read the full story, visit http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/13/4344947/miami-city-ballet-tranforms-itself.html.

 

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Peek Behind the Scenes, Meet Dancers, on ABT YouTube Channel

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ABT; photo by Renata Pavam

ABT; photo by Renata Pavam

The new American Ballet Theatre ABT YouTube channel, under the channel name of “ABTBalletTheatre,” will offer an in-depth and candid look at the company as it covers such topics as performance rituals, perseverance, and competition.

Current dancers from all ranks will be showcased in two or three minute Meet the Dancer vignettes that explore their experiences and points of view. Videos featuring special events and company activity will also be posted, along with behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals and day-to-day company life.

The channel provides users with a new social media experience in addition to ABT’s Facebook (http://facebook.com/AmericanBalletTheatre) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/ABTBallet) presence.

Access to the ABT YouTube Channel can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/ABTBalletTheatre.

 

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Grand Rapids Ballet Stunned at Philanthropist’s Gift of $1 Million

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Grand Rapids Ballet supporter Peter Wege in 2007; photo by Lori Niedenfuer Cool/Grand Rapids Press

Grand Rapids Ballet supporter Peter Wege in 2007;
photo by Lori Niedenfuer Cool/Grand Rapids Press

Grand Rapids [MI] Ballet has received $1 million from the estate of philanthropist Peter M. Wege, a gift that triples the size of the company’s endowment fund.

MLive said Wege, former chairman of Steelcase, Inc., and a patron of the arts in West Michigan, died in July at age 94.

Grand Rapids Ballet’s Meijer-Royce Center for Dance, which opened in 2001, was built with Wege’s support. Six years later, the company opened the doors of its 300-seat Peter Martin Wege Theatre, which Wege, whose middle name was Melvin, insisted was named, not for him, but for his father, who founded Steelcase.

Grand Rapids Ballet artistic director Patricia Barker, who took the helm of the company in July 2010, danced at the inaugural performance in the theater, built with a 50-by-50–foot surface and a sprung dance floor.

“Peter Wege was a true blessing to our organization and the community at large and will always hold a special place in our hearts,” said Glenn Del Vecchio, executive director of Grand Rapids Ballet.

The Wege Foundation previously had contributed $1 million toward Grand Rapids Ballet’s $2.5 million campaign to retire the company’s debts, build a cash reserve, develop new repertoire, and create a brand-new production of The Nutcracker. The production, designed by illustrator Chris Van Allsburg, a native of Grand Rapids who wrote the children’s book, The Polar Express, will debut in December.

A specific use for the $1 million gift from Wege’s personal estate to Grand Rapids Ballet’s endowment fund will be decided at a later date. “We’ve never dealt with this situation before,” Del Vecchio said. “We’ll put together a plan in the coming months.”

To see the original story, visit http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2014/09/grand_rapids_ballet_receives_1.html#incart_river.

 

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Character Dancers Needed for Live-Action Production of A Charlie Brown Christmas

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A Charlie Brown Christmas; image courtesy San Francisco Symphony

A Charlie Brown Christmas;
image courtesy San Francisco Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony is seeking 12 ballet or musical-theater dancers/actors able to create character through movement and with a strong comic sensibility for its holiday season production of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Auditions for the roles of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, and other members of the Peanuts gang will be held September 20 from 10am to 6pm at The Nourse Theater, 201-299 Hayes Street, with callbacks September 21 from 10am to 2pm at Davies Symphony Hall, Zellerbach Rehearsal Room C, 300 Franklin Street, San Francisco. There are roles available for teenage and adult (ages 18 to 25) male dancers, teenage and adult (ages 18 to 35) female dancers, and one 8- to 10-year-old female dancer. Rehearsals will begin December 10.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a 30-minute, live-action performance with orchestral accompaniment and video sets that will be presented as part of the symphony’s Christmas Spectacular, running December 19 to 24 at Davies Symphony Hall.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is directed and choreographed by Liza Gennaro, in collaboration with New York Theatre Ballet.

Interested dancers can schedule an audition by emailing a headshot and resume to danceauditions@sfsymphony.org. Walk-ups will not be accepted. Pay will be competitive and commensurate with experience.

 

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Live Streaming Allows Ballet Fans to Visit Five Companies in One Day

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World Ballet Day; photo courtesy San Francisco Ballet

World Ballet Day; photo courtesy
San Francisco Ballet

Five of the world’s leading ballet companies will stream live behind-the-scenes action from their rehearsal studios on October 1, the first-ever World Ballet Day.

Starting at the beginning of the dancers’ day, each of the five ballet companies—Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, and San Francisco Ballet—will take the lead for a four-hour period streaming live from their headquarters. Starting with the Australian Ballet in Melbourne, the live link then passes across time zones to Moscow to London to Toronto to San Francisco.

The live streaming will throw a spotlight on the differences in style between the five companies as they follow a very similar routine, but approach choreography and performance in the ways that have made them unique on the world stage.

Viewers will be able to engage and interact with dancers, choreographers, and coaches who live and breathe ballet every day of their working lives, asking questions throughout the day via Twitter, as well as having the opportunity to submit a video of themselves doing a pirouette. The day’s streaming will be repeated on YouTube in full, with edited highlights also made available for further viewing.

World Ballet Day grew out of the success of Royal Ballet Live, a nine-hour live streaming of the Royal Ballet in class and rehearsal via YouTube and The Guardian website in March 2012 which attracted 200,000 views of the live stream, with repeat broadcasts receiving 2.5 million views.

The complete broadcast will be available on http://www.sfballet.org/worldballetday and https://www.youtube.com/user/SFBallet. Visit the SF Ballet page for a rundown of broadcast times.

 

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Joffrey School Teams Up With Complexions Ballet for New Competition

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Desmond Richardson leads a master class; photo courtesy Élite Dance Tournament

Desmond Richardson leads a master class;
photo courtesy Élite Dance Tournament

The Joffrey Ballet School and Complexions Contemporary Ballet have combined forces to launch a new national competition, Élite Dance Tournament.

In its inaugural year, the tournament will provide an apprenticeship with Complexions Dance Company, a full-time position with the Joffrey Concert Group, and $180,000 in cash and scholarships, including $10,000 each for the “ultimate” dancer, studio, and choreographer.

2015 tour locations include:
• Tampa—University of South Florida, February 27 to March 1
• Brooklyn, New York—Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts, March 13 to 15
• Denton, Texas—Texas Women’s University, March 20 to 23
• San Francisco—ODC Theater, March 27 to 29
• Charlotte, North Carolina—Blumenthal Performing Arts Centers and Booth Playhouse, April 10 to 12
• Long Beach, California—California State University, May 1 to 3
• Finals—May 22 to 24 (location TBA)

Following a strong commitment to education, all competitors will be required to participate in master classes in their discipline. Instructors and judges will include Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson of Complexions; and Michael Blake, Jo Matos, Davis Robertson, and Josie Walsh of the Joffrey Ballet School. Special guest judges will be on hand in several tour locations. They include: Jodie Gates (Long Beach), Christina Lyon (San Francisco), Nigel Lythgoe (finals), Adam Sklute (Texas), and Ethan Stiefel (New York).

Élite will feature the judging system DanceComp Genie, which allows individual dancers and groups to access their scores and corrections, including listening to each judge’s notes while reviewing a playback of their performance online.

For more information, visit https://www.elitedancetournament.com/.

 

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Cincinnati Ballet Dancers Mourn Loss of Company Comedian Michael Sharp

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Michael Sharp; photo courtesy Jeff Corcoran

Michael Sharp; photo courtesy Jeff Corcoran

Michael Sharp was not only Cincinnati Ballet’s fiercest Captain Hook, he was also the funniest. When he took on the outlandish drag role of Mother Ginger in The Nutcracker, even the stagehands lined up in the wings to see what hilarity Sharp would unleash on the audience that day.

Cincinnati.com reported that Sharp, 60, died September 2 of a pulmonary embolism.

“He was so handsome and so funny and so full of life,” Victoria Morgan, Cincinnati Ballet artistic director and CEO, said. “He had such a great sense of humor—audiences adored him.”

Sharp, born in Lafayette, Indiana, was an unlikely candidate for a successful dance career. He didn’t take his first ballet class until he was in his mid-20s, according to his older brother, Jim Sharp, of Lafayette.

“He had a desk job of some sort and was feeling out of shape,” Kay Hurley, Sharp’s third wife, said, but a photo of Mikhail Baryshnikov spurred him to take class. Within a year, he had moved from Lafayette to Chicago, began studying at the noted Stone-Camryn School.

When a friend auditioned for a short-term job in Cincinnati Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker in 1979, Sharp tagged along. He got cast, and never left. He performed character roles with the ballet well into the last decade. After leaving Cincinnati Ballet he began a career as a painter and sculptor.

“Hearts are breaking today,” former dancer Jacqui Haas wrote on the Cincinnati Ballet Alumni Facebook page. “Michael was a wonderful dance partner, actor, comedian, performer, and friend . . . when I look back at my time as a dancer with the company, his animated and joyful presence is an enormous part of all my memories.”

To read the full story, visit http://www.cincinnati.com/story/entertainment/arts/2014/09/09/cincinnati-ballet-dancer-and-artist-michael-sharp-dies/15298257/.

 

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NYCB Star Patricia McBride Named a 2014 Kennedy Center Honoree

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Patricia McBride; photo by Jeff Cravotta

Patricia McBride; photo by Jeff Cravotta

Former New York City Ballet dancer Patricia McBride, now associate artistic director at Charlotte [NC] Ballet, will be recognized by the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors for her work as a ballerina and devotion to the field of ballet.

McBride will receive her Kennedy Center Honors medallion on December 6, along with other 2014 honorees: singer Al Green, actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, singer-songwriter Sting, and comedienne Lily Tomlin. A star-studded celebration saluting the talent and work of the honorees set for December 7 will be broadcast on CBS on December 30 at 9pm.

“I am honored, astonished, moved, humbled, and ecstatic to have been chosen by the Kennedy Center Honors committee as a 2014 honoree. This is the giant of all honors! I have so many wonderful memories of dancing at the Kennedy Center with the New York City Ballet, and George Balanchine and Jerry Robbins, who made this all possible for me,” McBride said in KnightArts.

McBride joined NYCB in 1959, and in 1961 became the company’s youngest principal dancer. Over a three-decade career in New York, McBride performed more than 100 ballets—with several roles in masterworks by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins that were created for her.

Joining Charlotte Ballet in 1996, McBride, along with her husband Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, president and artistic director, have expanded and diversified Charlotte Ballet’s repertoire and continued its reputation for excellence.

To see the original story, visit http://www.knightarts.org/community/charlotte/charlotte-ballets-patricia-mcbride-to-become-a-kennedy-center-honoree.

 

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Former NYCB Soloist Launches Website

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Kathryn Morgan, photo courtesy YouTube

Kathryn Morgan, photo courtesy YouTube

Kathryn Morgan became severely ill in 2010 with a thyroid disorder, leaving New York City Ballet in 2012 to focus on recovering in her hometown of Mobile, Alabama.

Now, according to the New York Times, Morgan is focused on returning to the stage, and she isn’t doing it alone: In May, she started a YouTube channel, which currently has more than 6,800 subscribers. On Facebook, she has more than 87,000 followers. She also posts regularly on Instagram.

Her videos are geared toward aspiring ballet dancers and include hair and makeup tutorials, barre workouts and question-and-answer sessions in which viewers submit anonymous questions about topics ranging from hyperextension to the dilemma between attending college or pursuing a professional dance career.

Ms. Morgan’s advice is refreshingly no-nonsense. “Do not match your eye shadow to your costume,” she said, laughing. “Please don’t.”

But with more serious issues, she is careful yet firm with her counsel and plans to create stand-alone videos that delve deeper into topics like dieting. “I don’t want to encourage dieting, especially with young girls,” she said. “They’re still growing. I’ve seen, time and time again, these 13-year-olds with eating disorders.”

Mainly, Morgan bases her videos on what she would have liked to have learned from a professional dancer when she was growing up. “The thinking behind it is me catering to my 13-year-old self.”

She also reveals, perhaps unknowingly, the grit that it takes to make it back to the stage. Morgan has shed 25 of the 40 pounds she gained as a result of her illness, and this month is in New York to train with Garielle Whittle, a former faculty member at the City Ballet-affiliated School of American Ballet, and Nancy Bielski, her favorite teacher at Steps on Broadway.

Morgan plans to audition for ballet companies this fall and is hoping to end up in Europe.

In a statement, NYCB ballet master in chief Peter Martins said Morgan was one of the greatest talents he had ever seen. “Her decision to leave New York City Ballet was an enormous loss, but was, of course, necessary so that she could focus on her health.”

For Morgan, being able to open up about her illness has aided her healing. “I also love talking about it to show younger dancers that it’s not all wonderful all the time,” she said. “Once you get into a company, you’re not the star from then on. Even big stars have had problems that people don’t know about.”

Dancers in ballet start young and essentially grow up onstage; the experience of finding her voice online has helped Morgan transform from a girl into a woman. “I didn’t realize how much I was wrapped up in ballet until I got sick,” she said. “When I didn’t have ballet anymore, I couldn’t function. I didn’t know how to be a person.”

As a dancer, she said, self-worth comes down to whether you perform well or not, or how thin you are. “This has helped me be confident no matter where I am or what I look like,” she said. “It’s really helped me be a person rather than just a dancer.”

To read the original story, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/08/arts/dance/kathryn-morgan-uses-social-media-as-she-gears-for-her-return.html?ref=arts.

 

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No Public School Due to Teachers’ Strike? Goh Ballet Say, “More Time for Ballet”

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Goh Ballet; photo courtesy Goh Ballet

Goh Ballet; photo courtesy Goh Ballet

Vancouver’s Goh Ballet has created a special daytime program to provide support for parents who require care for their children while the British Columbia, Canada, teachers’ strike drags on past last week’s scheduled opening of school.

The province’s 41,000 public school teachers went on strike two weeks before the summer break started, booting half a million students out of class. The sticking points are pay, class size, and the amount of support staff per class.

A Goh Ballet release said the 8:30am to 3pm program began September 2, and was designed to continue into subsequent weeks should the strike persist and students remain out of school. The curriculum includes ballet classes, dance history lessons, choreographic labs, and opportunities to watch the academy’s Senior Professional Dancers train and rehearse.

“As a parent myself, I realize the challenges that can accompany something as displacing as this strike,” said director Chan Hon Goh. “I knew that we had to do whatever we could to assist families as they look towards a very busy September. We see this as an opportunity for students to gain additional artistic education while they are not in academic school.”

The daytime program is open to students ages 7 to 12 and costs $40 per day—the exact amount of the daily stipend offered by the provincial government to parents for each public school student under the age of 13 to help with day care costs during the strike.

For more information, visit http://gohballet.com/pdf/Media%20Advisory%20-%20Goh%20Ballet%20Provides%20Support%20During%20Strike.pdf.

 

 

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New Ballet ‘Think Tank’ to Consider Past, Future, of the Classical Art Form

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Jennifer Homans; photo by Chang W. Lee/New York Times

Jennifer Homans; photo by Chang W. Lee/New York Times

Dancer turned historian Jennifer Homans, who wrote a sweeping history of ballet, Apollo’s Angels, is heading up a “ballet think tank” to consider how the classical art fits in today’s changing world and ask questions such as: “What is ballet going to become . . . what can it become?”

The New York Times said the new organization, the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University, where Homans is a scholar in residence, will open this month with the help of a $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Homans said its goals include establishing ballet as a serious subject of academic inquiry; drawing new voices into a discussion of its past, present, and future; and expanding the conversation beyond the confines of the dance world.

The center will grant a few fellowships each semester to people from the world of dance, academia, and beyond, and allow them to pursue a broad range of projects. That includes documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, who created the 1995 profile of American Ballet Theatre, Ballet, and is working on a ballet with choreographer James Sewell; and former New York City Ballet dancer Heather Watts, who wants to analyze and contextualize the ballets of George Balanchine for 21st-century audiences.

While the new center will not initially serve students, Homans said she hoped it would ultimately help ballet secure a greater toehold in academia. “You take Music 101, you take Art 101—where is the dance?” she asked. “And where is the ballet in particular? Here is an art form that has a history, a 400-year history, and is part of our civilization, and yet it doesn’t have a presence.”

To read more, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/arts/dance/new-center-at-nyu-focuses-on-dance-and-the-arts.html?_r=0.

 

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Documentary on Hospital for Criminally Insane Serves as Basis for New Ballet

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James Sewell; photo by Tom Wallace/Star Tribune

James Sewell; photo by Tom Wallace/Star Tribune

In 1967, filmmaker Frederick Wiseman documented the residents and inmates at Bridgewater [MA] State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, in his film, Titicut Follies. Today, James Sewell of the Minneapolis-based Sewell Ballet is working with Wiseman on a new ballet based on that film.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune said the Wiseman documentary ignited controversy when state authorities sought to prevent its release, saying it violated inmates’ privacy. The legal case rolled through various jurisdictions, but the film was withheld from distribution for years. Wiseman went on to wide fame for his fly-on-the-wall documentaries on a variety of subjects, including high-school life, meat, public housing, boxing—and, in two movies, including a profile of American Ballet Theatre, the world of dance.

Sewell said Wednesday that he and Wiseman, 84, have been talking by phone about the project this summer, and that Wiseman is due in Minneapolis later in September for meetings and in-studio improvisation.

Sewell said the ballet, which may retain the movie’s title, is likely to require 10 male dancers, as well as other characters to portray the state hospital’s doctors and nurses. Likely to premiere in Minneapolis about two years from now, the ballet will include music and possibly video from the original film, Sewell said.

“When I first saw the film—so intense, so strange—I thought, ‘how could you make a ballet of this?’ But the elements are all there—humorous, poetic, horrifying, sad,” Sewell said.

The movie’s title comes from an annual variety show that Bridgewater officials and inmates staged at the hospital. “These violent criminals and mentally ill inmates would put on a show, singing Gershwin with pom-poms in their hands,” Sewell said.

To see the original story, visit http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/blogs/273809581.html#YWC3y29HjHbF4wLu.01.

 

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Ballet Company Thinks of Clever Way to Announce Nutcracker Casting

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A happy Ballet Company of East County Nutcracker cast member; photo courtesy Facebook

A happy Ballet Company of East County Nutcracker cast member;
photo courtesy Facebook

The Ballet Company of East County, Brentwood, California, notified 81 children and teens that they would be performing in The Nutcracker this Christmas by posting the good news in their front yard while they were sleeping.

With the exception of the dancer cast in the lead role of Clara, young people traditionally have found out whether they made the cut from a cast list that’s posted online and at the ballet company’s Brentwood studio, managing director Nina Koch told the Contra Costa Times. (“Clara” receives a phone call.)

When a couple of advisory board parents suggested expanding on a marketing tactic the company had used last year (in which some families bought signs advertising the show and placed them in their yards), Koch ordered plastic signs and customized each with a handwritten announcement of the role that child would be playing.

Choreographers and parents in on the plot visited homes in Rio Vista, Mountain House, Discovery Bay, Brentwood, Oakley, and Antioch, for four hours one night, tiptoeing onto lawns and hammering in signs with mallets.

“It was complete shenanigans,” Koch said, recalling the time she jumped over a hedge while sprinting from the scene when a parent unexpectedly pulled into the driveway.

The merry band of messengers took photos as it made the rounds, posting its handiwork on Instagram and Facebook. To see the original story, visit http://www.contracostatimes.com/contra-costa-times/ci_26424586/eye-east-bay-young-ballet-dancers-get-happy.

 

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Miami City Ballet Looking For Young Dancers to Join Nutcracker Cast

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Miami City Ballet’s George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker; photo courtesy Miami City Ballet

Miami City Ballet’s George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker; photo courtesy Miami City Ballet

Miami City Ballet will hold auditions this September for area children who would like to dance in this season’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

The production will feature a cast of more than 100, with many of the roles performed by children. Performances of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker will be held at Artis–Naples on December 6 and 7, at the Kravis Center December 27 to 30.

Auditions for dancers from Naples and the surrounding area will be held September 14 at Artis–Naples, 5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples. Auditions for Palm Beach County–area children will be held September 28 at Ballet East, 2365 Vista Parkway, Suite 7, West Palm Beach.

At both locations, MCB children’s ballet masters will audition prospective dancers ages 8 and up with previous ballet training beginning at 11:30am.

Naples rehearsals will be held daily from September 15 to 21, followed by weekly rehearsals beginning September 22 at Naples Academy of Ballet. Palm Beach County rehearsals will take place weekly on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons beginning October 7 at Ballet East.

For more information, visit http://www.miamicityballet.org/news.php.

 

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Colorado Ballet Moves Into $6.5 Million New Home in Denver’s Art District

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Colorado Ballet dancers Maria Mosina and Domenico Luciano; photo by Sue Daniels Photography

Colorado Ballet dancers Maria Mosina and Domenico Luciano; photo by Sue Daniels Photography

Colorado Ballet has completed the move into its new home, a 30,000-square foot building at the north end of Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe Drive, reported Broadway World.

The new $6.5 million facility features seven state-of-the-art dance studios for the company and the Colorado Ballet Academy. The Armstrong Theater, a multi-use black box theater equipped with theatrical lighting, sound, and telescoping seats, will function as both a dance studio and performance space. Improved amenities for the company include locker rooms, showers, and a physical therapy room. The new academy location also includes a safe student drop-off area and increased parking in the neighborhood for academy families.

Colorado Ballet artistic director Gil Boggs said the new facility will allow the ballet to grow its outreach efforts and bring dance to thousands of school kids and people with disabilities. “We will also host small performances and events in our new theater, exposing more people to the magic of dance in this thriving arts neighborhood,” he said.

“This is the first time in our nearly 54-year history that we will own our building, and that is very exciting for everyone involved with Colorado Ballet,” said Boggs. “We have so much to celebrate in our organization, not just the new building, but also last season’s record-breaking attendance and performance revenue and our upcoming season of performances.”

To see the original story, visit http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwdance/article/Colorado-Ballet-Moves-into-Denvers-Art-District-20140828#.VACLxM90yUk.

 

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TWB’s Annual Open House Gives Guests a Sneak Peek at Upcoming Season

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TWB’s Sleepy Hollow; photo by Dean Alexander

TWB’s Sleepy Hollow;
photo by Dean Alexander

Guests will have an opportunity to view exclusive excerpts from The Washington Ballet’s upcoming productions of ALICE (in wonderland), Swan Lake, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia at its annual open house, September 21 from 2 to 5pm, at the ballet’s northwest DC location, 3515 Wisconsin Avenue.

Open house visitors can watch rehearsals and class demonstrations from The Washington School of Ballet, enjoy refreshments, and participate in family-friendly events and activities. Artistic director Septime Webre will talk about his process of creating full-length ballets, such as this upcoming season’s world premiere of Sleepy Hollow, in a Q&A.

The Washington School of Ballet will showcase class demonstrations with programs performed by students of the company’s northwest and southeast (TWB@THEARC) DC campuses. Representatives from the school will be on hand to answer questions about registration for the school and its classes conducted for children and adults at the southeast and northwest DC campuses.

Ongoing events during the day include makeup demonstrations, interactive kid-friendly “Make-A-Ballet” workshops, a costume try-on station, a “The Perfect Hair Bun” station, and pictures with professional dancers.

The event is free and open to the community. For more information, visit http://www.washingtonballet.org/_pdf/Press%20Releases%202014/The%20Washington%20Ballet%20Open%20House%20FINAL.pdf.

 

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Staffing Ranks Swept Clean at Pennsylvania Ballet; Many Long-Time Leaders Gone

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Jeffrey Gribler accepts accolades after a Pennsylvania Ballet performance; photo by Peter Tobia

Jeffrey Gribler accepts accolades after a Pennsylvania Ballet performance; photo by Peter Tobia

With a single swing of the ax, the new leadership of Pennsylvania Ballet has cleared out the longtime artistic pillars of the company, reported Philly.com.

Jeffrey Gribler is gone. The energetic personification of the company, who arrived in 1975 as an apprentice and quickly worked his way through the corps to become principal dancer and ballet master, was let go after nearly four decades. Tamara Hadley, who joined the same year and was much loved as principal dancer in the major classical roles, has been dismissed as ballet mistress. Also fired were William DeGregory, a star dancer before becoming director of the ballet school and Pennsylvania Ballet II, and former dancer Michael Sheridan, assistant to the artistic director and the cofounder of the annual AIDS fund-raiser Shut Up & Dance.

The dismissals—carried out Monday and not announced publicly by the company—come as Pennsylvania Ballet continues to remake itself after commissioning a report from arts consultant Michael M. Kaiser that, in the words of one ballet leader, aimed to bring the company “back to the top ranks of American ballet companies.”

In quick order after Kaiser’s evaluation a year ago, both artistic chief Roy Kaiser (not related to Michael Kaiser) and executive director Michael Scolamiero left, and by this July the company had appointed Spanish dancer Angel Corella as its new artistic director.

Asked Wednesday about the reasons for the dismissals, Corella said in an interview at the company’s headquarters: “I’m sure the people were great, but it was about the team you feel comfortable with. Energy is important in an arts organization. If you are comfortable, everything will fall into place.”

Julie Diana, who retired in April as principal dancer, has been appointed ballet mistress, and her husband, principal dancer Zachary Hench, the new ballet master. Corella said that he had known Hench and Diana for about seven or eight years before coming to Philadelphia, since bringing them to Spain to dance with his former company there.

The ballet also let go its marketing director, a member of the development staff, and the administrator of the ballet school. The school’s director will now be retired dancer Arantxa Ochoa, its former principal instructor, whom Corella said he had known from childhood when she was his sister’s best friend.

Ochoa was also a member of the search committee that named Corella artistic director.

To read the full story, visit http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140828_Pennsylvania_Ballet_
fires_longtime_artistic_leaders__administrators.html
.

 

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Two Oversized Ballet Lovers Meet, Dance, and Fall in Love in Coldplay Video

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Coldplay’s “True Love”; photo New York Daily News, via YouTube

Coldplay’s “True Love”;
photo New York Daily News, via YouTube

Coldplay’s latest video, “True Love,” follows two “oversized” people falling into what we assume is true love—both face rejection that makes them feel like outsiders, and both are simply mad for the ballet.

Radio.com says actress Jessica Lucas plays an aspiring ballet dancer whose huge balloon body excludes her from realizing her dream of becoming a professional dancer. Coldplay singer Chris Martin is a janitor, sweeping up a theater housing the ballet. The pair, individually, face hardships like not fitting through doors and incurring the constant disdain of almost everyone they come into contact with.

Their meet-cute is after a ballet. As the theater clears, Lucas remains literally stuck in her seat. Martin takes to the stage to clean it—and to perform his own interpretative ballet. And then, they dance: together, with the knowledge that if no one else loves them they can love each other.

To see the original story and watch the video, visit http://radio.com/2014/08/22/coldplay-true-love-video-jessica-lucas/.

 

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Bad Boys of Ballet ‘Saved’ to Cabriole Another Day by AGT’s Judge Mel B

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Bad Boys of Ballet; photo courtesy Facebook

Bad Boys of Ballet; photo courtesy Facebook

The Bad Boys of Ballet, a troupe of male dancers led by a solo female dancer, choreographer Adrienne Canterna, have made it to the America’s Got Talent semi-finals after all, thanks to a post-elimination save by judge Mel B.

The Maryland Gazette said the Gambrills-based group, which fuses classical ballet with hip-hop, jazz, and acrobatics, got word from celebrity judge Mel B just minutes after being eliminated last Wednesday night that she was using her judges’ “save” for the act.

“We screamed and cried,” Canterna said. “We were seriously over the moon, because it was just minutes after we got cut. She said she loved our act so much because we brought ballet to a new audience.”

Thanks to Mel B, they will dance again live tomorrow (August 26) in the hope of advancing toward the finals and the ultimate prize of $1 million.

“It has been such a roller coaster of emotions. We were so high from our performance and then so low after being eliminated,” said Canterna, who added that she and the six male dancers that make up the Bad Boys were a little surprised to be voted off because of the standing ovations they received from Mel B and judge Heidi Klum after their last performance.

To see the original story, visit http://www.capitalgazette.com/maryland_gazette/news/ph-ac-cn-bad-boys-back-0822-20140821,0,5661134.story.

 

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